Can Worrying About Grown Children Still Cause Parents to Lose Sleep?
Parents will always be parents, no matter how old their kids are. They never stop worrying about their kids’ health, social relationships, financial situation, career, and overall wellbeing.
However, according to a 2017 study, parents are still losing their sleep even when their kids are adults.
Amber J. Seidel, Ph.D., is the lead study author of the research published in the journal The Gerontologist. Together with a team of researchers, she analyzed how the parents’ worry over their kids affects their stress levels and sleep pattern, among the rest.
The study was conducted on 186 middle-aged, married couples who had 2-3 adult kids. They had to answer three central questions:
- “How much support do you offer to your kids?
- “How much sleep are you getting?”
- “How stressed you are?”
The parents had to rate the support they offer to their kids from 1 to 8 (1 being every day and 8 being up to once a year). This support was from an emotional and financial aspect. It included financial assistance, discussing daily events, and giving advice.
When it comes to their stress levels from helping their adult kids, parents had to rate it on a scale from 1 to 5 (1 being not at all and 5 being a lot.)
The last thing they had to rate was the amount of sleep they had every night. The fathers reported sleeping 6.69 hours a night, and the mothers slept about 6.65 hours.
The results indicate that providing support for their adult kids reduced the amount of sleep for fathers. But, they slept more when the mother said she was the one who provided the support for their grown kid.
Researchers didn’t notice much impact on the sleep pattern of mothers.
Nevertheless, the more stressed out mothers were about their kids, the more their sleep was impaired. On the other hand, stress levels didn’t affect the sleep pattern of fathers.
Researchers concluded that giving support for their adult kids affected the fathers, while stress regarding the support affected the mothers.
What’s more, researchers said that the daily use of social media helps parents find out about the life of their adult kids which can be another cause for concern.
Some of the stress-reducing techniques parents can try to include exercise, better-eating habits, support groups, mindfulness, etc. As Amber J. Seidel explains, stress is not the main problem – it’s the inability to deal with it in a healthy way.
Not being able to cope with everyday stress can lead to a weak immune system, and a weak immune system can increase the risk of many illnesses.
The lead author of the study also says that parents should analyze the way they give support to their adult kids, and also the way their kids receive it. Are they using it to control their lives, enable their kids, or really provide support?
Still, more studies are needed to determine how the relationship between parents and kids affects health and their overall well-being.
So, if you are a parent of a grown kid, know that experiencing stress over your kids is normal.
What Can Parents Do to Reduce the Stress over Their Adult Kids
Here are several suggestions parents should try to reduce the constant worrying and stress over their grown kids:
- Eat more healthy foods and well-balanced meals to maintain the optimal function of the brain, thus ensuring you have a good night’s sleep.
- Exercise on a daily basis to help fall and stay asleep more easily.
- Limit the use of caffeine and alcohol to prevent your anger from worsening.
- Let your feelings out and relieve your stress by telling your worries to someone you trust – but not your kid.
- A good way to reduce stress and forget about your daily worries is to participate in community activities.
- Spend some time alone to do the things you enjoy. That could be drawing, cooking, listening to music, or walking in the park. Devoting some time to your inner self is a great way to relax and cope with stress.
- Get a pet, or if you have one, devote more time to them. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America explains that the human-animal bond can be really powerful when it comes to mental health.
- Try yoga, meditation, and breathing techniques. You’ll soon notice the difference.